When I was in 8th grade, now 20 years ago, I was the worst version of myself. My parents were getting divorced and the hurt I was feeling I scattered out into my little sphere of influence of teenage girls. The details aren’t necessary but I know that I made people feel not good enough, insecure, and left out. I did it to build myself up because I felt like my little home world was falling apart. Of course, I was feeling insecure and left out. I was trying to control one part of my life because my identity of my “perfect” family unit and my “perfect” being-ness (oh to be 14) was shaken. I feel shame every time I think back on this time of my life. I can assure you the fall from grace was a teacher.

Today, of course, I can recognize my family wasn’t perfect and that no one is perfect. We’ve been lucky to have two therapists and five opinionated people in our family unit that are unafraid to say what the mean. Our family has a new shape and solid foundation of love, trust, and communication. But it wasn’t always the case. After my parents divorce there were years I didn’t really talk to my parents about anything. My sisters and I are not far apart in age, but 11, 14, and 16 can seem like decades apart and this time period impacted us each differently. I felt so catapulted from my version of normality that I didn’t know how to operate in this new world. I went through some very interesting phases (like tangerine hair and really bad outfits). In hindsight, I was eagerly trying to construct some environment where I belonged again. This went on subconsciously for a long time. Some people are able to move on from things quickly or turn a corner and let go of hurt. My pattern has been to carry it around like football gear for an extended and unnecessary amount of time. It’s something I am working to shift. Yoga helps.

Last weekend I was talking to a friend about 8th grade and how challenging it must be now. Social media has taken “belonging” to a whole new level. I know even my 8th grade self peeks her head up every now and again as I scroll through Instagram or facebook. Whether its events I’m not invited to or humans or businesses that seem like they have it all together, a part of me has doubt that I’m not enough or that I need to have approval or control to feel safe in a group. Ironically, one current trend is to celebrate imperfection and individuality. But as someone that has felt like an outsider, even my “celebrated” awkwardness, anxiety, and quirkiness can feel like they’re simply not the right type of imperfect to belong.

I have gotten to a point where most of the time I can watch my reaction and sit with it. (It’s uncomfortable.) In the quiet moments that follow, I remind myself to be humble, to learn from people wiser than me, to stay on my own path. I ask for help or an ear from a friend. I am grateful for the people that walk the walk, reminders of strength and community beyond the smoke screen of social media. I let myself be loved, by family, Andrew, friends, cats, and community. Love, however it shows up, reminds me I belong.